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Object Pronouns (direct / indirect)
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Video Lesson
Summary of Lesson
What are direct and indirect object pronouns? How are they used in sentences in place of nouns?
How do we differentiate between direct and indirect object pronouns? A look at how object pronouns are used differently depending on whether they are used with a preposition or a specific type of verb.
Word order. Where direct and indirect object pronouns are placed in sentences relative to the verbs that they are used with.
Looking at how direct and indirect object pronouns are used together in sentences and how this affects word order. A look at when 'se' is sometimes used and how object pronouns with more than one meaning are correctly identified.
   
  What you can learn from this lesson
   
Knowing what all the direct and indirect object pronouns are in Spanish and how they translate to those that are used in English.
Being able to place object pronouns correctly in sentences relative to the types of verbs they might be used with.
Having a sound understanding of how direct and indirect object pronouns are used differently in speech. Being able to identify which pronoun in a sentence is the direct object and which is the indirect one.
Knowing the word order of object pronouns when they are used together in a sentence.
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PART 1

 

The first part of this lesson explains what pronouns are in general. It then looks specifically at object pronouns; explaining how and when they are both used in conversation.

 

What are pronouns?

 

Pronouns are words that are used in place of nouns when it is not necessary or desirable to specify what the noun is.

 

Subject personal pronouns


(Look at the lesson on ‘An introduction to verbs and ‘Subject’ personal pronouns for much more information)

 

El perro estuvo ladrando. Él tenía hambre. The dog was barking. He was hungry.
el perro (the dog) noun
él – (he) – not el (the) subject personal pronoun – he is replacing the word (noun), dog

 

Object personal pronouns (direct and indirect)

 

(Yo) vi a Maria.  I saw Maria
(Yo) la vi.   I saw her
Maria noun
la (her) direct object pronoun – her is replacing the word (noun), Maria  


El perro ladró a Maria.  The dog barked at Maria.
Maria se paro cuando el perro le ladró.  Maria stood up when the dog barked at her.
Maria noun
le (her) direct object pronoun – her is replacing the word (noun), Maria

 

What are the Spanish direct and indirect object pronouns?

 

Direct object pronouns

 

Spanish

English

me

me

te

you

lo

him / it - masculine / you polite - masculine

la

her / it - feminine / you polite - feminine

nos

us

os

you (all)

los

them - masculine / you (all) polite - masculine

las

them - feminine / you (all) polite - feminine

 

Indirect object pronouns

 

Spanish

English

me

me / to me / for me

te

you / to you / for you

le

him / to him / for him

 

her / to her / for her

 

it / to it / for it

 

you / to you / for you - polite

nos

us / to us / for us

os

you (all) / to you (all) / for you (all)

les

them / to them / for them - masculine and feminine

 

you (all) / to you (all) / for you (all) - polite

 

PART 2

 

The second part of this lesson looks at how we can differentiate between direct and indirect object pronouns. This is often confusing because many of the direct and indirect pronouns take the same form (me / te / nos / os). Understanding how each type of pronoun is used in conversation can help us to correctly identify them.

 

1)      Direct object pronouns are always used with a verb. They can never be separated from the verb like indirect object pronouns can.

 

(Yo) te lo di.    (Yo) lo te di.
I gave it to you. I gave you it.

 

lo (it) = direct object pronoun

te (to you)    = indirect object pronoun

 

 

2)      Indirect object pronouns when used with verbs usually take a preposition. (But not always - Yo le pagé a él. = I paid him. - le is indirect here. In this example think about whether the sentence makes sense by adding the object pronoun, it. - I paid him it. By including the object pronoun, it, in this way it becomes easier to see why the object pronoun, him, must be direct.

When two object pronouns are placed together in a sentence the first one is always direct.) Direct object pronouns never follow a preposition.
Prepositions that are used with indirect object pronouns when translated into English are usually to or for.

 

(Yo) la vi.    I saw her.

 

la (her) = direct object pronoun

 

(Yo) le hablé.  I talked to her.

 

le (to her) = indirect object pronoun

 

3)      Think about the verb that is used with the pronoun. Some verbs can be used with direct object pronouns (transitive verbs) and some verbs can’t (intransitive verbs). Asking yourself whether or not the verb you are using makes sense when used with a direct object pronoun will usually tell you what type of pronoun it is.

 

(Yo) te gritaré.  I will shout to you.

 

te (to you) = indirect object pronoun

 

In this case the verb to sing can’t be used with a direct object pronoun. (I sing me / I sing him / I sing her etc is incorrect.)

 

(Yo) te enseñaré como cantar.  I will teach you how to sing.

 

te (you) = direct object pronoun

 

In this case the verb to teach can be used with a direct object pronoun. (I teach him / I teach her etc is correct.)

Note: Some Spanish verbs take a direct object pronoun where in English they take an indirect object pronoun. Examples include buscar (to look for) and esperar (to wait for).

 

PART 3

 

Part three of this lesson looks at word order. It looks at where direct and indirect object pronouns are placed in sentences relative to the other words that they are used with.

 

1) Normally both direct and indirect object pronouns come before the verb that they are used with. In English they usually come after the verb.

 

La chica ya me conocía.  The girl already knew me.
me – direct object pronoun  
Ella me hizo una tarjeta.  She made me a card.
me – indirect object pronoun  

 

2) If the verb is an infinitive verb or a gerund form of a verb (take a look at the separate lessons on infinitives and gerunds for more details), then the direct or indirect object pronoun can come before or after the verb when:

 

The infinitive or gerund follows another verb (or preposition + verb), which is also in the infinitive. Beware of changes in the use of accent marks (tildes).

 

Ella me quiso creer. Ella quiso creerme.
She wanted to believe me (me = direct object pronoun).  
Ella me llamó para hablar. Ella llamó para hablarme.
She called to speak to me (me = indirect object pronoun).  

 

(Yo) Estoy enseñándote.   Te estoy enseñando.
I’m teaching you (te = direct object pronoun).  
(Yo) Estoy mirándote.  Te estoy mirando.
I’m looking at you (te = indirect object pronoun).  

 

3) A direct or indirect object pronoun will always go after an infinitive verb or gerund when they DON’T follow after another verb (or preposition + verb), that is also an infinitive verb. Beware of changes in the use of accent marks (tildes).

 

Él me dijo después de pagarle. He told me after I paid him.
(me = indirect object pronoun)  
Viéndola por primera vez. Seeing her for the first time.
(la = direct object pronoun)  

 

4) Direct and indirect object pronouns always go after imperative tense verbs that tell us TO DO something or in positive constructions. (For more information on imperative tense verbs see the separate lesson.) Beware of changes in the use of accent marks (tildes).

 

Dame dos kilos por favor. Give me (I’ll have), two kilos please.
(me = direct object pronoun)  
Háblame o voy a dormir. Talk to me or I’m going to sleep.
(me = indirect object pronoun)  

 

5) Direct and indirect object pronouns always go before imperative tense verbs that tell us NOT TO DO something or in negative constructions.

 

No los veas.  Don’t watch them.
(los = direct object pronoun)  
No les grites.  Don’t shout at them.
(les = indirect object pronoun)  

 

PART 4

 

The fourth and final part of this lesson looks at how direct and indirect object pronouns are used together in sentences. It also looks at how we know which object pronoun is being referred to in a sentence where the object pronoun can have more than one meaning.

 

Word order of direct and indirect object pronouns

 

A lot of the time a sentence will contain both direct and indirect object pronouns. In these situations it doesn’t matter with what types of verbs they might be used with, indirect object pronouns ALWAYS go before direct object pronouns.

 

(Yo) te los di.  I gave them to you.
(te = indirect and los = direct)  
melos ahora.  Give them to me now.
(me = indirect and los = direct)  
Te los voy a dar.      OR      Voy a dártelos.   I’m going to give them to you.
(te = indirect and los = direct)  

 

When the object pronoun se might be used

 

Sometimes when certain direct and indirect object pronouns are used together the pronunciation doesn’t sound correct.

 

(Yo) le lo compré.   I bought it for him.

 

The pronouns le and lo together sounds odd, so instead se is used as follows:

 

(Yo) se lo compré. I bought it for him.

 

The indirect object pronouns le and les are changed to se whenever they are placed next to the direct object pronouns lo / la / los and las.

 

Making it clear which gender of an object pronoun is being referred to

 

Some object pronouns mean more than one thing. For example:

 

le (indirect object pronoun) - him / to him / for him

her / to her / for her

it / to it / for it

you / to you / for you (polite)

 

se (indirect object pronoun) - him / her / it / you / them etc

 

The indirect object pronoun se can mean many things because it is used instead of the indirect object pronouns le and les.

 

To make it clear which indirect object pronoun is being referred to we use the following at the beginning or end of a sentence:

 

a él him / to or for him
a ella her / to or for her
a ellos them / to or for them (masculine)
a ellas them / to or for them (feminine)
a usted you / to or for them (polite)
a ustedes you / to or for you (all) polite

 

A usted se lo di.           or         Se lo di a usted.  I gave it to you (polite).

 

If the indirect pronoun in question refers to it, we can often use a noun to make it clear what we are talking about.

 

(Yo) se los clavé a la cerca. I nailed them to the fence.

 

That concludes this lesson on direct and indirect object pronouns. If you have not done so already watch the actual video for this lesson and then try one of the associated quizzes to test your understanding.

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Object Pronouns (direct / indirect)
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